Swifts and Swans

A lengthy piece that combines my guitar solo ‘Swifts’ with my setting of a poem by W.B. Yeats – ‘The Wild Swans at Coole’. Unfortunately, the guitar is poorly recorded in places.

For this more recent version, the guitar sounds better but it’s not the best I’ve ever sung it. And there are some bits of the guitar part in the older version I like. I guess the answer is to have yet another shot at it, but in the meantime…

And here’s the poem.

The Wild Swans at Coole

The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty swans.

The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.

I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.

Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.

But now they drift on the still water,
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake’s edge or pool
Delight men’s eyes when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?

Adventures in Video – Moonflow III

Music (c) David Harley, who played acoustic guitar, resonator guitar and electric guitars through the magic of overdubbing. Both electric guitar parts feature a Line 6 Variax. I can’t remember what guitar the first electric voice emulates, but the second was a Coral Sitar emulation. Photographs (c) Jude and David Harley: mostly from Stonehenge and York.

The recording was remixed for the video.

David Harley

Lady Mary (The Sad Song)

Not often I do a genuine(-ish) folk song… (It sounds composed, maybe in the 19th century?) Instrumental version of a song collected by Carl Sandburg in Missouri. Combines two close variants of the tune. He apparently called it The Sad Song, which indeed it is. The words are the subject of much discussion on Mudcat: maybe 19th century, maybe significantly older. The tune reminds me slightly of The Furze Field, but I think that’s a little too upbeat to go from one to the other.

Guitar and resonator guitars are all me. Isn’t technology wonderful?

MP3 backup on this site:

2nd backup:

David Harley

Angel [revisited]

Recorded on domestic equipment in the 1980s, so the guitar is a bit twangy, but the vocal seems to have come out quite well – probably better than I could sing it nowadays.

Tell me something that troubles me:
When you look at me, what do you see
To take a chance on a three-time loser like me?

You talk of trusting and sometimes I do
But what makes an angel like you
Waste time on a broken-down hero like me?

I can’t believe you’d want to keep going bail
For a shop-soiled knight errant with trouble on his trail

[break]

It makes no sense that you’d want to keep going bail
For an ex-crusader with a hell-hound on this tail

Anyway when I see you again
I’ll be praying just the same
That you still have time for a three-time loser like me

 Words & Music by David Harley, copyright 1975

When I was (suite) – demo revisited and remastered

Several decades ago, I put a tune to ‘A Shropshire Lad’ XVIII:

Oh, when I was in love with you
Then I was clean and brave,
And miles around the wonder grew
How well did I behave.

But now the fancy passes by
And nothing will remain,
And miles around they say that I
Am quite myself again.

For a long time I sang that (occasionally) unaccompanied. More recently, it occurred to me that the same tune also fitted XIII ‘When I was one-and-twenty…’ and that the two actually had a thematic connection. So I put together a suite of the two, both accompanied on guitar, and also including an instrumental interlude. I’m still working on a final recording of that, which might also include an instrumental version of ‘Down by the Salley Gardens’: indeed, Sally Goddard and I were discussing a live set a couple of years ago that would have included all three songs. Recently, I reverted to an unaccompanied version of XVIII as sung here. And that might be the way I do XVIII in the final version. Here, however, is a remastered version of an early take on the combination of XVIII and XIII, including a quasi-orchestral interlude. (It’s actually a Yamaha keyboard, since that was the nearest thing to a real orchestra I had to hand!)

Watch this space for further developments…

David Harley

Adventures in Video: ‘The Fancy Passes’

‘The Fancy Passes’ is part of a suite of settings of verse by A.E. Housman.

This one is XVIII in ‘A Shropshire Lad’.

Oh, when I was in love with you
Then I was clean and brave,
And miles around the wonder grew
How well did I behave.

But now the fancy passes by
And nothing will remain,
And miles around they say that I
Am quite myself again.

The full suite also includes an instrumental interlude followed by XIII ‘When I was one-and-twenty…’ I’m still working on a final recording of that.

This unaccompanied video version was my entry for the May 2020 Trad2Mad competition held by Islington Folk Club. It didn’t win, but that’s unsurprising, given the very high standard of singing that I generally associate with that club. Unfortunately, I’ll probably never get to play there again, given that I’m the wrong side of 70 and living in Cornwall…

David Harley

Adventures in video: “Thomas Anderson – a Jacobite Tragedy”

This is actually already available as a podcast, but I thought it might benefit from some pictures… I’ve used the (home-)recorded version of the song with several overdubs here, not a live version, and that takes up about half the video. Much more of the backstory here. 

David Harley

Two is a Silence [remastered]

Actually, remixed and remastered, with the original main vocal replaced because it was annoying me that the words were not quite as I sing them now. Vocals, guitar and bouzoukis by me: I can’t blame anyone else.

Words and music (c) David Harley

Two isn’t company, three is a crowd
Two is a silence, three is too loud
Two is a silence gets harder to break
But three always leaves one left over

Three into two isn’t good for the head
It’s no problem in math, but it’s bad news in bed
And it’s one for an ace and two for a pair
But three always leaves one left over

When we’re alone somehow he’s always there
You say it’s the same when you two are the pair
So it’s one for sorrow and two for joy

But three always leaves one left over

All the shouting is over and dead
Somehow there’s nothing much else to be said
And it’s one for the money and two for the show
But three always leaves one left over

Two isn’t company, three is a crowd
Two is a silence, three is too loud
Two is a silence gets harder to break
But three always leaves one left over

David Harley

Backup version

 

A Perfect Cocktail [early demo]

Words & Music (c) David Harley

And yes, I agree that blaming the person for whom you have an unrequited passion is not healthy or politically correct. This is a work of fiction, not autobiography. 🙂 Now I have to learn it, as I’ve promised to sing it next Saturday.

Who’s driving nails into my lonely bed?
Who sent images scurrying through my head?
You…

We mixed a perfect cocktail, you and I
How come now my cup is dry?

How come these days I drink so much alone?
Who’s to blame if I end up stoned?
You…

And we mixed a perfect cocktail, you and I
How come now my cup is dry?

Who leaves me here, lying all alone?
Who asks six weeks later why I didn’t phone?
You…

And we mixed a perfect cocktail, you and I
How come now my cup is dry?

Who’s driving nails into my lonely bed?
Who sent images scurrying through my head?
You…

And we mixed a perfect cocktail, you and I
How come now my cup is dry?

 

Blues for Davy revisited

Music (c) David Harley

While I’m often accused of trying to sound like Bert Jansch, it was actually Dav(e)y Graham I wanted to sound like before I realized I was a better songwriter than guitarist and concentrated on the songs instead of instrumental technique.

‘Blues for Davy’ is a short guitar piece I used to play a lot in the 80s, trying to get some of that jazz feel that informed so much of what he did, though it was actually quite a formal piece. This is an extended version with a lot more improvisational content. While I don’t think my rheumaticky hands will ever let me call myself a jazz guitarist with any degree of conviction, it worked much better than I expected, especially for a spur-of-the-moment one-take version. I might come back to it adding a second guitar at some point.

I’m not sure I’ll ever be brave enough to play it live, though.

David Harley